MURMANSK KIRKENES

By Knut ÅSDAM

VITAKUBEN GMBH - as PROD

First film - Development 2013

Two modern societies with a uncanny strecht of boarderline between them.

    • Year of production
    • 2013
    • Genres
    • First film, Historical
    • Countries
    • GERMANY, NORWAY, SWEDEN
    • Languages
    • RUSSIAN, ENGLISH
    • Budget
    • 0.6 - 1 M$
    • Duration
    • 90 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Knut ÅSDAM
    • Writer(s)
    • Knut ÅSDAM
    • Producer(s)
    • Leif Magne TANGEN (vitakuben GmbH), Thom PALMEN (Botnia Films)
    • Synopsis
    • What it is:
      90 minutes, fiction-documentary moving between material realism and literature, from the northern European region of Murmansk and Kirkenes. With a narrative spanning across the Schengen border in the city of Murmansk and the towns of Nikkel and Kirkenes.
      The film engages parallel stories in Kirkenes (Norway) and Murmansk (Russia)—the small modern Norwegian town and large new-rich industrial Russian city that form key points divided by a stalker like no-place in between, with Nikkel and its surroundings, in an old region which formerly had no borders. Two modern societies with an uncanny stretch of borderland between.
      The story spans the two places and intimately involves the complicated bureaucratic structures of the EU, in a contemporary "so far away so close" scenario, where people find creative ways of living their lives around the rules, claims and possibilities of the nations states.
      Why Murmansk Kirkenes:
      This is a region that has been heavily marked by the course of European history, and despite that not many people know much about it. It is also a unique meeting point between Western Europe and Russia across a border
      Historically it has been an area of free movement of people, and it was only in the 1850s that the area got borders. For hundreds of years the Russians, the Finns, the Norwegians and the Samis and other indigenous people used the area and moved quite freely.
      In the 20th century, the relationship between the Soviet Union and western Europe meant that the border became militarized and imprinted in the traumatic consciousness of the current Europe of that day.
      The first stark example is the winter war between Finns/Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union – which also involved Nazi sympathisers from Norway and Sweden. As you move through the large beautiful landscape in the region, you are also looking over the graveyard of thousands of young men. The area was badly damaged at the end of WW2 and the result is a profoundly modern urbanity.
      During the cold war, people on the Norwegian side of the border learned that it was illegal to have contact with the soviet soldiers, so effectively that many learned to ”unsee” the soviet towns and military on the other side of the border. This practise of the ideological divide reached such a perfection that when the iron curtain fell, people of my generation were shocked not only to see people but to se the apartment blocks of the town Nikkel in the distance. They had grown up thinking that they were making trips to the remote wilderness. It is like China Mieville’s sci-fi-noir novel, The City and The City, come to life.
      After the fall of the iron curtain the region is becoming more open. There is interplay between social and political good will and political tactical play. Much is at stake, particularly in terms of economic resources. However at the same time the Schengen border is increasingly fortified on the European side. The residents of the border regions on both sides of the border now have got a special border region ID, which allows them easier travel between the two regions.
      Murmansk is a cultural center in the Russian region, Kirkenes a sort of commercial and beurocratic center on the Norwegian side. In between you have the imfamous, dystopic and immensely polluted Nikkel, a kind of ulcerine tar hole in the representation of the area, that in any case is painfully real, which makes a stalker like landscape.
      The area is like a total dramatisation of the European narrative in today’s terms. It is also an area of surprising immodest modernity and cultural energy.
      PEOPLE
      Since this border is a kind of crisis narrative of a Europe that isn’t sure of itself, what interests me are the people living in this remote part of Europe and what they have to go through every day in their lives just to get by. Their practise of their lives. E.g. in order to have a life that is described to them through media etc, their willingness to wait three hours in a double passport que just to go to a store. The dress-up culture and refinedness in Murmansk. On both sides of the border, these are regions from which the young people move.
      You have the students crossing the border to study, you have the prostitutes crossing the border to work, you have some people that maintain a job or at least a life, however precariously on both sides. Murmansk Kirkenes will follow 5 persons, built up from found stories, as a kind of site specific practice, one that responds to and listens to the place and the human lives lived there. In this case, people that happen to live in a historically rich but traumatic part of Europe.
      While the person “A” lives between the two cities, she lacks the roots that the people that stay behind have. The film is primarily about “A”, and use her as a metaphor of the migrant population in today’s Europe – both national and international. Kirkenes-Murmansk exemplifies the EU/Schengen issues albeit in a different cloak than we are used to seeing because it represents a different kind of mulitculturalism than we see further south in western Europe.
      This is also a film about urban fringe areas far away from the world’s attention, but where people still live and try to orient themselves from whatever possibilities they have and without much hope for entering the world’s focus in any other way than economic (oil, fish, military).
      The film plays specifically on the urban density of Murmansk, its cold war based infrastructure and the stark remoteness surrounding it and Kirkenes in a different, modern Europe.
    • Partners & financing
    • Barents Sectretariat, Pikene på Broen, Botnia FIlm (Sweden)
    • Production schedule
    • 2012: searching for partners - script done
      2013: closing financing
      2013/2014: production, post-production, completion
    • Beginning of shooting
    • Aug 01, 2013
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